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A couple of q.s about honing

I'm sure these will have been talked about before in some way, but I just wanted to canvass opinion / see if someone can explain stuff to me. Feel free just to post a link if there's some obvious thread that I've missed. And I'm also going to make a few assumptions, so if they're incorrect let me know, as it'd probably invalidate the questions...

I have a hollow ground SR that was honed and had a bevel set by one of the many experts here. Why would I ever need to take it below a finishing stone? Looking at the design it appears that concurrent metal removal at the spine and edge while honing will preserve the geometry of the razor. And if we compare it to something I do know about... honing a razor is in effect identical to sharpening the ura of a single-bevel knife, something you actually want to do on a fine stone anyway. But on a 'normal' double-bevel knife you'd need to go down lower grit stones from time to time for two reasons: Firstly a knife gets blunter than a razor before you need to sharpen it - you don't sharpen or strop a knife after each vegetable. Secondly you will occasionally need to thin it behind the edge on coarse stones - effectively re-setting the bevel. Neither of these reasons appear to me to affect SRs, so will I ever need to hone one on lower grit?

The above q. also assumes that SRs are *not* differentially hardened... is that correct?

Is there any problem with not stropping? If we assume I don't yet have a strop (I don't), but do have a number of very fine finishing stones (I do), can I just use those for a few featherweight passes and not strop? I can't imagine it's going to create any kind of noticeable burr or wire edge that I'm going to need to further refine. And isn't loaded stropping basically the same as putting something on stones anyway?

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As I say - do feel free just to tell me they're stupid questions, but if you can say why they are that'd be appreciated too!
 
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First, I’m not sure I would form a hard parallel with razors and knives including Japanese knives or chisels with “built in honing angle guides” so-to-speak.

The perfect razor edge comes from perfect stone work and an exact angle and no double bevel. A knife can be ridiculously sharp and this not be critical.

Why not only finishers you ask. Well, consider at an extreme a chip in the blade for example. Razor hits a scale or user hits the faucet etc etc - it happens to the best of us. But beyond that, many finishers remove so little steel that if you have beaten the edge up it would take too many strokes and far too long on a fine finisher to reach the edge again. Experience will demonstrate this to you if you spend enough time honing. Some finisher can be fine and more aggressive and maybe those you can. But in situations where you need to reach an edge, finishers are sometimes not the best choice and going back down to 6-8-10k (or whatever needed) will get you there much faster, deliver a nice clean bevel/edge, and put you on track quickly.

Technically, you can hone a flat piece of steel with no bevel to razor sharp on just a “finisher”…….just may takes days and days and eat up stones :)

Just think about right tool for the right job. Finishers are for…..well….finishing. Sometimes they are great for touch ups too like you are asking. Sometimes they are not and you will learn this whole honing.
 

Steve56

Ask me about shaving naked!
Agree with @LJS - razors are not knives and cannot be honed like one. It’s better if you forget everything that you know about knives when honing a razor, you’ll ruin fewer of them - I’m a Japanese knife honer too. Everything about razors is bass ackwards from knives except you rub both on hones - that’s where the similarity ends. An example is removing minor edge damage on a knife with a fairly fine stone, say 5k, I did that all the time just by pushing harder on the stone. You can’t do that on a razor or the edge will flex and you’ll be honing the side of the razor. You have to go coarser or spend an inordinate amount of time doing the same thing on a razor. A knife edge lasts longer because you can push harder when cutting - a pot roast never complains. But not recommended while shaving!

You can maintain a razor indefinitely with a good finisher like a Naniwa 10k or 12k, or possibly pasted balsa (never tried that). A razor edge is fragile though, and tends to accumulate damage over time, small chips, bevel convexing a little, etc. It’s faster and easier to reset the bevel with a coarser (say 8k) stone than to do it with a fine finisher. Again agree with @LJS

Razors get thinned too, I’ve seen a couple of Filarmonicas with the belly removed and attached is an image of a worn Stille frameback that has been thinned, most noticeable in the image near the toe. Razors are also differentially hardened, but the hardness extends most of the way to the spine. If you polish one the right way you can see a hamon line. Second image.

Hope this helps.

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First, I’m not sure I would form a hard parallel with razors and knives including Japanese knives or chisels with “built in honing angle guides” so-to-speak.

The perfect razor edge comes from perfect stone work and an exact angle and no double bevel. A knife can be ridiculously sharp and this not be critical.

Why not only finishers you ask. Well, consider at an extreme a chip in the blade for example. Razor hits a scale or user hits the faucet etc etc - it happens to the best of us. But beyond that, many finishers remove so little steel that if you have beaten the edge up it would take too many strokes and far too long on a fine finisher to reach the edge again. Experience will demonstrate this to you if you spend enough time honing. Some finisher can be fine and more aggressive and maybe those you can. But in situations where you need to reach an edge, finishers are sometimes not the best choice and going back down to 6-8-10k (or whatever needed) will get you there much faster, deliver a nice clean bevel/edge, and put you on track quickly.

Technically, you can hone a flat piece of steel with no bevel to razor sharp on just a “finisher”…….just may takes days and days and eat up stones :)

Just think about right tool for the right job. Finishers are for…..well….finishing. Sometimes they are great for touch ups too like you are asking. Sometimes they are not and you will learn this whole honing.

Cheers! Yep - this was certainly a theoretical question, with another assumption being I don't ding it or anything. I do have a load of various coarser stones too. I suppose the q. I was trying to ask was: is the design and construction of a razor such that with normal honing on a fine stone it will continue to maintain its bevel geometry, without needing to be reset?

And yes - the comparison I was making with kitchen knives was to highlight (and help me understand) the differences. When I spoke about the ura of a single-bevel knife; that was a comparison based on the idea that you remove metal from all around the uraoshi, but not the concave middle of the blade, to maintain the original geometry. To take the comparison ad absurdum - a straight razor might be like a yanagiba or takohiki with two ura, and no wide-bevel side. Or something... ;)

[p.s. I am absolutely the kind of person who will drop my razor in the sink, probably slicing my hand open in the process, so I'm certainly not under the impression that I won't need other stones. I was just checking that until that time inevitably comes I should be fine just on finishing stones.]
 
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Agree with @LJS - razors are not knives and cannot be honed like one. It’s better if you forget everything that you know about knives when honing a razor, you’ll ruin fewer of them - I’m a Japanese knife honer too. Everything about razors is bass ackwards from knives except you rub both on hones - that’s where the similarity ends. An example is removing minor edge damage on a knife with a fairly fine stone, say 5k, I did that all the time just by pushing harder on the stone. You can’t do that on a razor or the edge will flex and you’ll be honing the side of the razor. You have to go coarser or spend an inordinate amount of time doing the same thing on a razor. A knife edge lasts longer because you can push harder when cutting - a pot roast never complains. But not recommended while shaving!

You can maintain a razor indefinitely with a good finisher like a Naniwa 10k or 12k, or possibly pasted balsa (never tried that). A razor edge is fragile though, and tends to accumulate damage over time, small chips, bevel convexing a little, etc. It’s faster and easier to reset the bevel with a coarser (say 8k) stone than to do it with a fine finisher. Again agree with @LJS

Razors get thinned too, I’ve seen a couple of Filarmonicas with the belly removed and attached is an image of a worn Stille frameback that has been thinned, most noticeable in the image near the toe. Razors are also differentially hardened, but the hardness extends most of the way to the spine. If you polish one the right way you can see a hamon line. Second image.

Hope this helps.

View attachment 1306808View attachment 1306809


Very interesting pics there - I didn't know that about SRs, ta!

I think this answers what I was attempting to ask:


You can maintain a razor indefinitely with a good finisher like a Naniwa 10k or 12k, or possibly pasted balsa (never tried that). A razor edge is fragile though, and tends to accumulate damage over time, small chips, bevel convexing a little, etc. It’s faster and easier to reset the bevel with a coarser (say 8k) stone than to do it with a fine finisher.

It was more a theoretical question really, about the geometry of a razor and whether it worked like uraoshi sharpening, which I think it does by the sound of it.

And you've anticipated what would probably have been follow-up questions, about what kind of grit you'd want to go down to (though I imagine that depends on how out of shape it is). But also - if you're honing at lower grits to re-set or repair the bevel to some extent - you're still doing that with almost no pressure then? The same as I've been doing on a finishing stone, just with a coarser one...?
 

Steve56

Ask me about shaving naked!
Yes, almost no pressure compared to knife pressure. When I started honing raxors and reading the theeads, I kept wondering ‘Why the heck do razor honers have all these coarse stones?’ The answer of course is that you can’t push very hard, so if you’re correcting a chip or frown and don’t want to spend the rest of your life doing it, you need coarse hones. How coarse depends on what you’re doing as you’ve noted. Corrective honing requires coarser grits than maintenance honing. A side note is that fine synthetics are expensive, so there’s also an incentive to do most of the work on the cheaper stones rather than wearing out your finisher.

Most people use a synthetic progression beginning at 1k, the ‘standard’ bevel setter, though my bevel setter is a Shapton Glass 2k HR or a 4k HR if the bevel is in good shape and well formed. From the 2k HR, I usually do the Shapton Glass 6k HC then to a JNat finisher. From the 4k, I usually do the 8k HC and JNat finisher.

If you’re going to finish with high grit synthetics you probably want to be coming off something like a Naniwa 10k or 12k then the Suehiro 20k or one of the 30k Shaptons.

I’m kind of a minimalist these days, 2 synths and a JNat are working for me.
 
. But also - if you're honing at lower grits to re-set or repair the bevel to some extent - you're still doing that with almost no pressure then? The same as I've been doing on a finishing stone, just with a coarser one...?
For the most part, this is true.

Lots of good info above.

Regarding differential hardening; It is present on a lot of razors, especially vintage, but IMO and IME it is usually an artifact of the steels being used more than something that is purposely done. The torque that an experienced person uses while honing easily compensates for the somewhat softer spines if honing without tape.

Regarding the necessity of a strop; IMO you absolutely need a strop if you're going to be shaving with the razor. There are a few who would disagree, but they are in the extreme minority. The character of the shaving edge can be drastically changed with a strop. A harsh edge can often be tamed with a few artful strokes on a clean leather strop and a good shaving edge can be maintained for well over 100 shaves with just clean strops.
 
Regarding the necessity of a strop; IMO you absolutely need a strop if you're going to be shaving with the razor.
I concur.
I am sure good strops make even more of a difference, but I've had decent luck with the cheap ones you can find online.
I have a couple of this one Rite Edge Leather Barber Strop Straight Razor Knife Sharpening Shave Strap | eBay - https://www.ebay.com/itm/292676322756?hash=item4424de45c4:g:NCAAAOSwzG9d6vCw
Another advantage of having a few strops, is you can dedicate one to a compound like crOx to refresh further the edge when needed.
 
If your razor is shave ready you could theoretically be kept that way forever with just a finishing hone. You would only need lower grits if you let the edge degrade too far, or have an accident and damage it.

In my experience no matter how fine the edge is off the stone, it will always be taken up a step in sharpness and comfort with a good stropping. Also, a razors edge is so fine that dragging it through your whiskers bashes the edge to bits on a microscopic level. Stropping takes all the ragged edges and draws them back out into alignment. While you could hone the raggedness away before each shave, it would be a lot more trouble than just stropping, and put unnecessary wear on the razor.
 
Thanks all for the thoughts here! Very helpful for my understanding of things.

I will have to grab or make myself a strop stat then by the sound of it. Though probably set up alright for stones I think - I don't want to count how many I have, but it's the right/wrong (depending on your perspective) side of 50 😬 .
 
A while ago I experimented with stropless shaving. I started out with a shave-ready edge off a diamond pasted balsa strop progression. For the first shave, the blade was pre-stropped on clean leather. For subsequent shave, no edge maintenance was performed.

The end result was that the first two shaves (full face, three passes each) where almost identical in comfort and results. The third shave was noticeably (just) less comfortable. From then on the edge gradually deteriorated until reaching about shave 20, where the shave was decidability uncomfortable and giving poor results.

That reinforced in me the importance of stropping on clean leather before each shave.

My routine now is (starting with a shave-ready SR that has been prepared without tape):
  1. 50 to 60 laps on a clean leather strop.
  2. Shave.
  3. Wipe dry with toilet paper (not touching the edge).
  4. 5 to 10 laps on a clean cloth strop (I prefer chamois) to clean the edge.
  5. 50 to 60 laps on a 0.1μm diamond pasted hanging balsa strop.
  6. 15 to 18 short X stroke laps on a 0.1μm diamond pasted balsa strop.
  7. Put SR away until next time it is used.
With this regular maintenance, the blade need never touch a whetstone/lapping films again.
 
@cotedupy, for a strop I recommend that you get one that is wider that 50mm (2"), like 65mm (2½") or a bit more. This will reduce the difficulty in developing your stropping technique as performing long X strokes will not be such an issue.

I prefer my strops at about 65mm (just a personal preference) but others prefer them up nearer the 75mm (3") width.

My learner's strop (63mm) was from central Asia for well under USD 20. I badly cut my first two up (slow learner) but my third survived pretty much unscathed. I then purchased a much better strop from @Tony Miller which I now use daily and remains in perfect condition (knock on wood). I still used my Asian strop when traveling.
 
@cotedupy, for a strop I recommend that you get one that is wider that 50mm (2"), like 65mm (2½") or a bit more. This will reduce the difficulty in developing your stropping technique as performing long X strokes will not be such an issue.

I prefer my strops at about 65mm (just a personal preference) but others prefer them up nearer the 75mm (3") width.

My learner's strop (63mm) was from central Asia for well under USD 20. I badly cut my first two up (slow learner) but my third survived pretty much unscathed. I then purchased a much better strop from @Tony Miller which I now use daily and remains in perfect condition (knock on wood). I still used my Asian strop when traveling.

Ta! I imagine that's a very good call re- size. My first couple of attempts at honing have gone relatively well, though I think I would struggle on smaller stones without the muscle memory built yet. I could certainly sharpen a large knife on a far smaller stone than I could hone a razor on currently.

And yes... my wife is probably equal parts patient and bemused!
 
There are many YouTube videos showing how to strop a SR. In my opinion, most show the strop being held too loose and/or stropping with too much pressure.

My recommendation is the hold the strop tight enough and use as least pressure as you can (like blade weight only) such that, when stropping, there is almost no deflection in the strop. By "almost no deflection" I mean no more that about 5mm to 6mm (about 3/16") of deflection at the mid-length of the strop when the blade is passing the mid-length. The less deflection, the better.
 
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